2023 Ludwig Nominee: Exercise Program at Sparrow Eaton Helps Patients Manage Chronic Disease

Since 1990, the MHA has honored member healthcare organizations working to enrich the overall welfare of their local communities through the Ludwig Community Benefit Award. This year, the MHA is excited to showcase all award nominees, highlighting the exceptional and creative work being accomplished by Michigan’s hospitals.

At Sparrow Eaton Hospital, a 2023 Ludwig nominee, the Health Management program applies tailored exercise plans to help patients better manage chronic disease, prevent illness and improve overall health.

Prior to the program’s existence, Sparrow Eaton teams found that a large percentage of the patient population struggled with obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Regular physical activity has been shown to improve – and in some cases reverse – symptoms of these conditions. With this in mind, the program utilizes exercise physiologists to engage and educate patients on how to be more active in a way that suits their lifestyle and health goals.

Patients are referred to the program through their primary doctor or at the completion of a clinical service such as physical therapy or cardiac rehab. Those who qualify choose between an at-home workout plan or participate in weekly group sessions led by exercise physiologists. On average, patients who participate in the program increase their weekly physical activity by over an hour – and nearly half of surveyed partakers reported improvements to their chronic condition.

Dr. Kimberly Friar, MD (top) and Dr. Anthony Marl, DO (bottom) are Primary Care Physicians and champions of the Health Management program at Sparrow Eaton Hospital.

Since being implemented, the program has received over 100 referrals from primary care providers and more than half of those referred have participated. Overall, the initiative has made it possible for Sparrow Eaton providers to help their patients become more active and understand how proper physical activity can be used to improve their overall health.

Members with questions about the program or the Ludwig Community Benefit Award should contact Erica Leyko at the MHA.

MHA Podcast Explores the Community Benefit of Rural Hospitals

headphones with heart icon in middle.
Helen Johnson sitting in front of podcast microphone
Helen Johnson, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, FACHE, president at Sparrow Eaton Hospital and chair of the MHA Small & Rural Hospital Council.

The MHA released another episode of the MiCare Champion Cast, which features interviews with healthcare policy experts in Michigan on key issues that impact healthcare and the health of communities.

On episode 26, Helen Johnson, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, FACHE, president at Sparrow Eaton Hospital and chair of the MHA Small & Rural Hospital Council, shares the impact rural hospitals have on their communities and local economy. 

Johnson, who began her career as an oncology nurse in Marquette, has more than 30 years of leadership experience on both the clinical and executive side of healthcare. She has received many accolades and awards, including the MHA’s 2018 Healthcare Leadership Award and the 2017 Ludwig Community Benefit Award.

In the episode, Johnson shares her personal journey to healthcare and the heart-warming experiences that have made her – and many of her staff – proud to serve rural communities. She also shares the stories of residents who have found community and connection through Sparrow’s Al!ve wellness facility, where she is currently interim executive director.

The episode is available to steam on SpotifyYouTubeApple Podcasts and SoundCloud.

The MiCare Champion Cast is part of the statewide #MiCareMatters campaign, launched in 2017, which aims to build a network of citizens — “MiCare Champions” — who will be called upon to engage in advocacy efforts to protect access to affordable healthcare services in Michigan.

Members with questions or who would like to submit ideas for future podcasts should contact Lucy Ciaramitaro at the MHA.